Surrogacy—what you need to know about having a baby

June 20, 2018 by Susan Baines, The Conversation
Although having a baby by surrogate in the UK is legal, the lack of detailed legislation can make it complicated. Credit: Shutterstock

Elton John and David Furnish, Kim and Kanye, and Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, have all received help from a surrogate to have children. But it's not just something for the rich and famous.

People may choose to use a surrogate for all sorts of reasons – fertility issues, preexisting problems, issues with previous pregnancies or age-related concerns – and of course, it can seem like a no-brainer for same-sex couples or single people looking to have a family of their own.

There are two types of legal in the UK: gestational – where the surrogate is implanted with an embryo that has been fertilised in a lab using the intended mother's or donor's egg and the intended father's or donor's sperm. And traditional surrogacy – where the surrogate's own egg is fertilised by the intended father's sperm.

What's the legal situation?

The current law means parents having a baby through surrogacy must apply for a court order to gain legal rights over the once it has been born. This can take time and so can create issues around early life medical treatment or the consent to baby vaccinations, for example.

It can also mean that if a surrogate mother changes her mind about giving up the child, parents could face a long legal battle to try and claim the baby. This is because current rules in the UK give a woman automatic parentage over any child she gives birth to, even if the child is not biologically her own.

At the moment, the law currently only gives maternity leave and pay to the surrogate mother who will be giving birth to the baby. But the good news is that the government is looking into plans to reform surrogacy law. A three-year project will "consider the legal parentage of children born via surrogacy, and the regulation of surrogacy more widely," according to the Law Commission.

How does it impact the child?

There is really very little information about the effects on a child born in this way. But there is a lot of evidence now to show that the period before birth is just as important for the health of the baby as after the birth. The NCT 1000 Days report highlights that: "The antenatal period is as important as infancy is, to the outcome for a child because maternal behaviour has such a strong impact on the developing foetus and the newborns health at birth."

A recent study indicated that children born through surrogacy have more problems with their behaviour and adjustment in childhood than those born either naturally or via other reproductive technologies such as egg donation. Their lives in the womb were cited as a salient factor.

In this way, the health of the surrogate child really depends on a trusting relationship between all parties concerned. All surrogates, whether traditional or gestational, are required to complete a health screening form – and in some cases may be required to show evidence of their blood tests to the potential parents or their representatives.

What's it like for the surrogate?

Most surrogates don't get into it for the money. They do it because they love children, and they want to help people who cannot have them. Being a surrogate isn't an easy job – pregnancy puts a massive strain on the body.

The antenatal journey begins at conception and during this time, a 's behaviour is vitally important to the health and development of the unborn child's brain. What she eats, what she feels and what she actually experiences, are all transmitted to the growing baby.

Her body's contact with the unborn is powerful and so too is the sound of her voice, her heartbeat and the tender touch of her hands on her belly. Being relaxed brings benefits to the baby and can help to maintain calmness within the womb.

Even when the couple's egg and the sperm are implanted into the surrogate's womb, her ongoing pregnancy health can affect the immediate and of the child. She needs to comply with antenatal care and be honest about her pregnancy lifestyle. Additionally, the couple need to be honest with their medical history.

So how much does it cost? In the UK, the majority of surrogacy cases will be privately funded. Around £15,000 is the going rate, which tends to cover loss of earnings, medication and supplements, as well as childcare and extra food costs. On top of this, couples also have to pay for fertility clinic costs and the court fee.

Explore further: A new way to regulate surrogacy to give more certainty to all involved

Related Stories

A new way to regulate surrogacy to give more certainty to all involved

September 21, 2017
Starting a family through surrogacy is fraught with stresses and uncertainties.

Landmark report exposes the myths about UK surrogacy

November 19, 2015
A report by Dr Kirsty Horsey at the University of Kent has discovered it is a myth that a high proportion of potential parents from the UK go overseas if they need to use surrogacy.

Family bonds: How does surrogacy impact on relationships?

July 9, 2013
Preliminary results from a pioneering study at Cambridge University paint a positive picture of the relationships formed between surrogates and the families they help to create.

Thailand bans commercial surrogacy for foreigners, singles

August 7, 2015
Thailand, once a top choice for would-be parents around the world who were seeking a surrogate, has narrowed the choices for people looking to hire a woman to carry a fetus in her womb.

Kent legal expert shows how UK surrogacy laws have become 'nonsensical'

May 4, 2016
Kent legal expert shows how UK surrogacy laws have become 'nonsensical'

First study to look at Australians' use of surrogacy

August 15, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Research into how Australians use surrogacy shows that most people thinking about it are considering or using overseas compensated arrangements.

Recommended for you

Undiagnosed STIs can increase negative PMS symptoms

September 17, 2018
Women that have undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections may be at greater risk of experiencing negative premenstrual symptoms (PMS), according to new Oxford University research.

High dose folic acid does not prevent pre-eclampsia in high risk women

September 13, 2018
Taking high dose folic acid supplements in later pregnancy (beyond the first trimester) does not prevent pre-eclampsia in women at high risk for this condition, finds a randomised controlled trial published by The BMJ today.

Study finds air purifiers may benefit fetal growth

September 12, 2018
A new study led by SFU health sciences researchers Prabjit Barn and Ryan Allen reveals fetal growth may improve if pregnant women use portable air purifiers inside their homes.

Delayed childbearing is a growing source of multiple births, study shows

September 12, 2018
Starting in the 1980s, the number of multiple births—twins, triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets—steadily increased from about 20 sets per 1,000 live births to almost 35 sets per 1,000 live births in the 2010s.

Transforming pregnancy research with a smartphone app

September 5, 2018
For years, pregnant women have been underrepresented in biomedical research. Current treatments, interventions and guidelines do a poor job of taking into consideration the diverse characteristics of all pregnant women.

For women undergoing IVF, is fresh or frozen embryo transfer best?

August 21, 2018
The world's first baby born via in-vitro fertilization turned 40 years old this summer. Still, after four decades, IVF is a relatively new field with ongoing debate on how to get the best results for families who have placed ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.